• Target 11 investigates unused stimulus money


    PITTSBURGH - Target 11 uncovered millions of dollars across Pennsylvania meant to energize the local economy and create jobs haven't been touched.
    And now western Pennsylvania is in danger of losing that stimulus money.

    Target 11 investigator Rick Earle is on the trail of your tax dollars working to figure out why the money hasn't been spent.

    The city of Sharon received a $200,000 stimulus grant to hire to hire two new police officers. That grant was awarded to the city three years ago.

    "There was $200,000 the feds were going to give you and you said no?" Earle questioned City Manager Scott Andrejchak.

    "The city passed on that," said Andrejchak, who was not with the city at the time, but said the city determined that it just couldn't afford the grant.

    Andrejchak said it was too expensive for the city because the grant required the city to retain the officers even after the stimulus funding ended.

    "It was a tough decision for the city to make because there's a carrot of funding to add additional staff that's needed," said Andrejchak.

    Andrejchak said the city never accepted the cash, but Target 11 discovered that the federal government's own stimulus tracking website, recovery.gov, still lists the Sharon grant as "not started."

    Target 11 found 59 projects throughout Pennsylvania worth $71 million that are all listed as "not started."

    But when Earle began digging into specific projects in western Pennsylvania, and raising questions about the status, he discovered that some of them had indeed been started, and others had been finished months ago.

    That came as no surprise to government watchdog groups.

    "Government is big government is inefficient, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that we are having so much difficulty tracking this money and that so much of it hasn't been spent," said Elizabeth Stelle, a policy analyst with the Commonwealth Foundation.

    Target 11 discovered that a bridge rehabilitation project in Brownsville and lock and dam improvements along the Monongahela river both listed as not started, have already been wrapped up.

    A contract with a medical research company in RIDC Park in O'Hara Township should be completed this month, according to a representative for the company.

    But Target 11 discovered that grants for a new police officer in Aliquippa and and improvements to a community health center in New Kensington haven't been started.

    The mayor of Aliquippa told Target 11 that the city didn't get enough qualified applicants. He said he's hoping to get more applicants soon, and to fill the position by December.

    A spokesman for the clinic told Target 11 that he's waiting for the landlord to sign off on the construction project.

    Also listed as not started, a $5 million sewer project in Menallen Twp. Fayette County. But when Target 11 started investigating, we discovered that the project finally got under way this past summer, three years after the money was approved and to the surprise of some residents.

    "Nobody ever told us anything. No one told us a thing about it," said Josephine Kennedy, who has mixed emotions about the new sewer lines.

    Kennedy showed Target 11 an elevated pipe that now runs right through her back yard.

    "It's definitely an eyesore, and it's reduced my property value and it's a liability, and I don't like it," said Kennedy.

    And Target 11 also discovered some more confusion about the stimulus sewer project.

    According to recovery.gov, the new sewer line will provide service to 500 homes in Menallen Twonship.

    But a member of the Sewage Authority told Target 11 it's more like 225 homes.

    He also said that the new lines will promote growth in the township, and raise revenue, allowing the township to keep taxes low.

    "It's interesting that there's little accountability in these sorts of programs when you have the federal government constantly looking at the private sector, and demanding more accountability," said Stelle.

    A spokesman for recovery.gov said some of the online information hadn't been updated. And he said in some cases the information was inaccurate because recipients failed to provide updated reports.

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